Bob Lambert

Jazz on the harmonica

Leader’s Data Manifesto Annual Review: “It’s About the Lopez Women”


A year ago I recounted proceedings from the 2017 EDW World conference, which included release of the Leader’s Data Manifesto (LDM). Last week’s EDW World 2018 served as a one-year status report on the Manifesto. The verdict: there’s still a long way to go, but speakers and attendees report dramatic progress and emergence of shared values supporting data management’s role in enabling success and reducing risk.

To me the most compelling example of progress was the story of the Lopez women, told by Tommie Lawrence, who leads patient data quality efforts at Sharp Healthcare, a major San Diego, Ca, healthcare network. Ms. Lawrence’s team is responsible for data quality related to about six million patient records in the 40 highest priority of Sharp’s ~400 systems containing Patient Health Information (PHI).

A few years ago, Sharp Healthcare had two patients named Maria Lopez*, with birthdays one day apart. One suffered from kidney disease, the other had cancer. After a long wait a kidney was found, and the hospital called the Maria with kidney disease and asked her to come to the hospital for a transplant immediately. During operation prep, an assistant noticed that Maria had cancer, and put a halt to proceedings – it didn’t make sense to give the kidney to someone with cancer.

Luckily, the transplant was from a living donor, so there was time to determine that the two Marias had been intermingled, or “overlaid”, into the same health record. After 450 work hours involving 35 hospital staffers, and agony for the Lopez family, the problem was corrected, and the transplant proceeded.

In recounting progress in data quality efforts, Ms. Lawrence’s story mirrored much of the content of other speakers. She described her Master Patient Index team’s growth from an ad hoc group of 4 clerks in 2001 to a team of 10 “systems analysts” on the health system’s Data Governance team. Sharp now charges back the MPI team’s costs back to other departments based on how much they use MPI services, a patient data quality incentive that surely saves lives.

Not all speakers recounted such successes, but positive and hopeful talks outweighed the lessons-learned-from-data-train-wrecks so common in the past. Perhaps the pinnacle of these was Danette McGilvray’s and John Ladley’s session “The Leader’s Data Manifesto – Making it Work for You”. After refreshing the group on the LDM and recounting the year’s progress in publicizing the manifesto, Ms. McGilvray and Mr. Ladley facilitated group feedback about their experiences, how to improve the manifesto, and our relevant experiences since the 2017 release. The lively discussion centered on ways to better communicate data concepts – social media, speaking up in Agile retrospectives, promoting DAMA, and much more. Laura Sebastian Coleman struck a hopeful note recounting how, after she had introduced the LDM at her company, she was in an unfamiliar part of her company when she saw the Leader’s Data Manifesto poster hanging on a cubicle wall of someone she didn’t even know.

Here’s the message I took home from the conference: data management improvements are in sight, and as data professionals we are empowered to bring them to fruition. Tommie Lawrence showed Sharp Healthcare how data quality improvements saved lives. Robert Abate told how, when he served as a data management professional at Walmart, he emailed Walmart’s CEO to let him know Walmart was losing $100 million per year. Mr. Abate applied the scientific method to available data and found daily dips in sales correctible through operational changes, and then he had the confidence to make his discovery known with a direct email to someone with the interest and power to act upon the information (with cc’s all the way up the chain, of course).

The bottom line is that if we’re willing to communicate good data practices, find the big wins, and appropriately advocate their benefits, we can drive the progress that the Leader’s Data Manifesto demands.

*given HIPAA regulations, I’m assuming Ms. Lawrence used pseudonyms


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